to be free from seizures for so long a period. But in these first days, while Clara’s grief expressed itself in a silent isolation, Jean became “the executive head and manager” of the family [84-5].
On hearing of Livy’s passing George Gregory Smith wrote a verse to Sam:
“Is it true Oh Christ in Heaven
That the wisest suffer most
That the strongest wander furthest
And most hopelessly are lost
That the test of rank in nature
Is capacity for pain
And the sadness of the singer
Is the sweetness of the strain”
June 6 Monday – At 2:30 a.m. at the Villa Reale di Quarto near Florence Sam wrote to Susan Crane.
2.30 a.m. I have been down stairs to worship that dear face, & for the first time in all these long years it gave no heed. How beautiful it was; & young, & smooth, & rounded, & how sweetly reposeful! I can carry that picture clear & fadeless in my heart until my own happy time shall come.
Susy, we never dreamed that the sun of our house was setting! Five hours & a quarter ago—at 9.15 p.m.—she was bright & happy; and a single minute later she passed from life. All in an instant. Without a struggle, without a catch of the breath—peacefully, unconsciously; just as a tired child falls asleep. It was heart-failure. How grateful I am that she was mercifully spared the awful fate she has been dreading—death by strangulation.
I sat by her from 7.30 to 8; I ventured to stay so long (a forbidden privilege) because she was so animated
was feeling so well. When I went away I was so hopeful & happy that it amounted to an exaltation. And so I was moved to do a thing which I have seldom done since Susy died: I went up stairs to the piano & broke out into the old Jubilee songs that Susy liked to hear me sing. Jean came straightway & listened—she never did it before. I sang “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” & the others. And Livy, so far away, heard me, & said to the nurse, “He is singing a good-night carol for me”—& almost in that moment she passed away.
I went down to say good-night, & entered the room suspecting nothing. Her spirit had just taken flight. Livy was sitting up in bed—as always—& Katy was supporting her on one side & the nurse on the other, the children standing at the foot, looking dazed. I went & bent over & looked in her face, & was surprised that she did not greet me. I did not know she was dead. I did not suspect it until Clara said, “Katy is it true? Katy, is it true?” Then Katy burst out in sobbings, & I knew!
O, Lord God! [MTP].
Sam sent cables to Charles J. Langdon, H.H. Rogers, Richard Watson Gilder, William Dean Howells, and Dr. William Wilberforce Baldwin: “She passed peacefully away last night” [MTP]. Note:
some of these are deduced from incoming letters; other cables were likely sent, but are not extant.
At 3 a.m. Sam also wrote to H.H. Rogers.
You have received my cablegram, dear Mr. Rogers, & you know that a desolation has come upon this household which nothing can repair. Mrs. Clemens died at a little past 9 last night—no one suspecting that the end was near. It was heart-failure, & instantaneous. She had been talking cheerfully & happily a moment before.
Our life is wrecked; we have no plans for the future; she always made the plans, none of us was competent. We shall carry her home & bury her with her dead, at Elmira. Beyond that, we have no plans. The children must decide. I have no head, I am stunned; I was not expecting this. In these last days I was beginning to hope, & half-believe, she would get well. It is a thunder-stroke.
With my love—& hers—to you all, … [MTHHR 569 ].
SLC used mourning border for most letters from Susy’s death on, then from Livy’s death on.